Improved Characterization of Thermoelectric Materials Through a New Method

Problem Title

Improved Characterization of Thermoelectric Materials Through a New Method

Scientific Title

Experimental Setup for Characterizing the Thermoelectric Figure of Merit Utilizing the Porcupine Method

Student: 
Cody Burke
Major(s): 
Physics
iCons Concentration: 
Renewable Energy
iCons Class Year: 
Class of 2015
Executive Summary 

Reclaiming waste heat generated from using fossil fuels is an attractive option for decreasing the amount of fuel consumed, thereby reducing economic and environmental costs associated with their use. One method of reclaiming waste heat is by using thermoelectric generators, which can use waste heat to generate electricity.

Thermoelectrics do not see widespread use largely due to their inefficiency. Current development of more efficient thermoelectric materials has nearly stalled since the 1960's. One major issue with developing more efficient thermoelectric materials is the difficulty in characterizing them. The commonly used Harman Method has a flaw, resulting in inaccuracies ranging from 1%-20%.

I will be using the relatively new Porcupine Method. The main improvement of this method over the Harman Method is that it requires no DC signal and uses a small signal. More investigation into this new method is required to evaluate its improvement upon the quality of measurements made using the Harman Method.

I believe that the Porcupine Method will allow for improved characterization of thermoelectric modules. Beyond improved accuracy, Having multiple methods at our disposal is useful for increasing confidence in our measurements. At the least, we will be able to verify the usefulness of this new method.

By having a new method for characterizing thermoelectric modules, progress in moving them from the lab to actual applications will happen sooner. Being able to use thermoelectrics will allow for us to be less dependent on fossil fuels, which reduces costs, both monetarily and environmentally.

Problem Keywords: 
fossil fuel
waste heat
Scientific Keywords: 
Porcupine Method
thermoelectric modules